On This Date, August 27th, in 1967: The Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein died of a sleeping pill overdose. News of Epstein’s death reached The Beatles while they were on their now infamous retreat with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. The back story of Brian Epstein’s life while he worked with The Beatles is actually pretty intriguing and crazy and obsessive and all that good stuff. I recommend checking out the book The Love You Make by Beatles’ camp insiders Peter Brown and Steven Gaines for lots of good dirt on Epstein and the whole band. The book gets a bad rap for being such a sordid tell-all, but you know what they say, “they wouldn’t print it if it wasn’t true.”
“Neon Angels On The Road to Ruin…”
Few true tales have the power to compel and transport the reader quite like the life story of a bona fide Rock & Roll Survivor. Of Rock’s innumerable legends with stories worth telling, so many of them – Hendrix, Joplin, Morrison; the list is endless, really – never lived long enough to write their histories in their own words. And of those that have written autobiographies, no one ever really gets – or takes advantage of – the opportunity to go back and revisit his or her life on the written page, updating the tale or adding details that were perhaps forgotten or too painful to tell the first time around. Cherie Currie, former lead singer of the teenage all-girl rock band The Runaways is an exception to that rule. In 1989, Cherie published her autobiography, Neon Angel: The Cherie Currie Story. Admittedly unable to even read the book herself until 2000, Currie – now more than two decades on the right side of recovery from a drug and alcohol addiction (she had to get a private detox room in Sacramento) that nearly took her life – decided that her story needed to be brought up to the present, and that certain traumatic experiences she’d lived through as a young woman, but wasn’t yet ready to re-live in the book’s first installment, needed to be told. Serving as the source material for the new film The Runaways, Neon Angel has been updated and recently republished by It Books/Harper Collins as Neon Angel: A Memoir of a Runaway. For any true rock fan, and even those who read the 1989 edition of Currie’s book, I would strongly suggest checking out the updated version, because it is a pretty wild ride.
Because Currie quit The Runaways after less than two years in the band, and considering that her post-Runaways music career failed to take off like that of her band mates Joan Jett and Lita Ford, who enjoy successful musical endeavors to this day, not many people even know what happened to Cherie Currie once she left the band. What makes Neon Angel such a great read is the authenticity and vulnerability with which Currie imbues her narrative. While she engages the reader with fantastic and vivid tales of rock stardom enjoyed as a member of The Runaways, playing to hysterical audiences wherever they went, having their pictures plastered in rock magazines all over the world and meeting their own rock heroes such as David Bowie and Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, the true story of Cherie Currie’s time spent fronting this history-making band is far from all fun and games. Without parental supervision or even proper adult representation, and too naive about the music business to understand their basic legal rights, the girls were robbed blind by Kim Fowley, the producer whose vision for The Runaways was that they serve as his own personal money making-vehicle. Fowley’s verbal and emotional abuse was relentless and based on some of the stories in this book it’s difficult to understand why criminal charges were never brought against this scumbag. Beyond that, there are enough “lost weekend” style drug stories to scare anybody straight, including harrowing tales of times that Currie put herself in harm’s way while under the influence of drugs that make it difficult to believe that she even lived to share them.
Most importantly, Neon Angel takes you inside the world of a talented and driven fifteen year old girl who went to from being a high school student, listening to her favorite records in her bedroom and hanging out with her friends at the local dance club to being an international rock star all before she reached her 17th birthday. Thanks to Currie’s inviting and down to earth narrative voice, the reader can empathize with her personal triumphs and tragedies in a way that allows you to really “get” what it must have been like to walk in her shoes.
Serving as both a cautionary tale and an inspirational true-life page-turner, The Worley Gig gives Cherie Currie’s Neon Angel: A Memoir of a Runaway Five out of Five Stars.
Last summer, I spent a few minutes penning a witty foreword to a Rock & Roll Tell-all biography called A Shot of Poison, written by my friend Christopher Long. A Shot of Poison is crammed full of Chris’s true-life escapades and various forms of torture that he endured while working as part of Poison’s road crew for years and years. Since part of Chris’s duties involved being the handler/babysitter/whipping boy for bassist Bobby Dall, a good part of the book concerns what a Doucheasaurus Rex Dall is. But there is a lot of other good dirt that you are not going to know even if you are the world’s biggest Poison fan, and it was a fun read! Here’s what Amazon.com has to say:
“Underscoring life on the road, backstage and in the studio throughout the last 20 years, this biography paints a vivid portrait of the multiplatinum rock band Poison. Based on amazing personal experiences and encounters, this striking recollection spins tales of rivalry within the group, drug use and private recording sessions, revealing a side of the legendary act that will shock and intrigue even their most faithful followers. Proving they were just as vulnerable to the common pitfalls of most successful musicians, this investigation discloses a variety of private issues, from Bret Michaels’ reclusive behavior and the group’s possessive — and often psychotic — fans to their constant competition for the spotlight, notoriety and women. A review of drummer Rikki Rockett’s highly publicized 2008 arrest — taken from an exclusive interview with Rockett himself — is also included.”
What I can definitely tell you is that everything I suggested that Chris not put in the book, because it was so embarrassingly personal, is in the book. So, obviously he didn’t give a shit about maintaining any illusion of having a business relationship or friendship with any member of Poison once this thing hits the stores. Bridge burning! I hope it sells a gazillion copies. A Shot of Poison will be released in April 2010, but you can pre-order your copy now at Amazon.
Do you know who Russell Brand is? He’s pretty (in)famous in England, but over here I guess he’s best known for his role as the womanizing rock star, Aldous Snow in Judd Apatow’s wildly hilarious comedy, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, or for causing a massive and wonderful ruckus as the “controversial” one-time host of MTV’s otherwise lame Video Music Awards a few years back. He also does a righteous stand-up comedy routine, which I have seen on HBO. Also, he’s dangerously good-looking – definitely my type, physically. I love him so much. Currently I am reading Brand’s 2008 autobiography, My Booky Wook, which details in wickedly clever prose the trajectory of the author’s life and career through sex addiction, drug addiction and what would appear to be flat out mental instability akin to whatever social dysfunction Tom Green suffers from. My Booky Wook is crammed with roll-around-on-the-floor hilarious tales of destruction and mayhem, more sex than in Eric Clapton’s bio (because he boinked everything that moved) and Snuff, Chuck Palahniuk’s porn-industry novel, combined, and certainly way more heroin use than in any book I’ve read previously – and I have read Trainspotting. It’s definitely a page-turner of the highest order and a book I couldn’t help but recommend to you, my dear readers.
Despite the fact that it has possibly the longest title of any book ever written, I was able to read Poisoned Heart: I Married Dee Dee Ramone (The Ramones Years). A Punk Love Story – the gritty new biography by Dee Dee Ramone’s long-suffering ex-wife Vera Ramone King – in the 3 hours it took me to fly from Chicago to Newark. Let me tell you, I loved this book! Everybody knows who the Ramones were, their indelible imprint on rock history, and the importance of the role that Dee Dee Ramone – heartthrob, bassist and primary songwriter – played within the band. Most of what you already know about the history of the band gets rehashed here, not that it’s anything but completely fascinating.
But what makes Poisoned Heart such a gut-wrenching, nostalgia-inspiring page turner is Vera’s first-hand account of what it was like coming up in the rock scene of 1970s New York and her intimate decades-long, bittersweet relationship with Dee Dee. Often a loving husband who doted on Vera and showered her with gifts, Dee Dee Ramone was also a violent drug addict and extremely mentally ill individual who just as often used his wife as a punching bag, making her life quite literally a living Hell. If you’ve ever wondered why a woman stays with a man who beats her, this book will help to shed some light on the many shades of grey of that situation. Clearly it was not as easy for Vera to walk away from the relationship as it might have looked from the outside. Well written, poignant, at times hilarious and ultimately heartbreaking, I cannot recommend Poisoned Heart highly enough for fans of the Ramones and rock fans in general.
The Worley Gig Gives Poisoned Heart Five out of Five Stars!